In U.S. politics, Gerrymanding is defined the manipulation of the boundaries of electoral districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage over its rivals. In the United States, representatives to state assemblies and the U.S. House of Representatives are determined by the voters within voting districts in each state. Unlike the boundaries between individual U.S. states, voting district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years to coincide with the U.S. Census. This is one of the reasons why completing the Census is very important.
In the United States, representatives to state assemblies and the U.S. House of Representatives are determined by the voters within voting districts in each state. Unlike the boundaries between individual U.S. states, voting district boundaries are redrawn every 10 years to coincide with the U.S. Census. Article I, Section II of the Constitution says that each state shall have at least one U.S. Representative, while the total size of a state’s delegation to the House depends on its population.
The Constitutional basis for conducting the decennial census is to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives. Apportionment is the process of dividing the 435 memberships, or seats, in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states.
Consequences of gerrymandering are an increase of polarization in American politics and a lack of representation of minorities, as a large part of the constituency is not represented in policy making. Gerrymandering disenfranchises millions of Americans.
In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines. The decision freed nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Section 5 of the law required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to obtain approval before changing voting rules.
This process, known as “preclearance,” blocked discrimination before it occurred. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court invalidated Section 4 — which determines the states and localities covered by Section 5 — ruling Congress must pass a new formula to determine which states and localities would be subject to “preclearance.” The ruling had the effect of eliminating preclearance. This ushered in a wave of efforts in states previously covered under Section 5 to restrict voting rights.
Gerrymandering increases the divisiveness in our politics. When politicians understand that they can get elected by appealing to a limited percentage of the electorate that may decide their primary election, it shuts out a vast majority voters. This is one of the reasons many voters tune out political engagements believing their vote don’t matter. However, it is because of this disengagement that these politicians get elected by allowing the party in power, especially immediately after the census, to draw district maps.
Independent Redistricting Commission
Utah’s redistricting committee is now formed
The seven-person committee will be chaired by Rex Facer – Associate professor and Ethics at BYU.
The remaining members were selected to represent Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated interests.
Former Congressional Republican Representative Rob Bishop
Former Utah State Senator Lyle Hillyard
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist N. Jeffrey Baker
Former Utah State Senator Patricia Jones
Former Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham
Former Appellate Judge Bill Thorne
The commission’s deadline to submit the new boundaries is the end of the 2022 legislative session.
1Utah Project will remain engaged and involved with this commission’s work.